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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Community Cohesion and Catholic Censorship

While I won’t comment anymore on the wisdom or rights of building the Park51 Community Center affectionately termed the “Muslim Y”, I will say that there are 2 stories aside from the waffled Quran burning that have struck me almost speechless in relation to the big ruckus over this now 11 story building (previously 13). One is that Michael Moore has proposed that we move Park51 to Ground Zero. Stephen Prothero’s suggestion was more practical, but Moore’s idea, while economically unfeasible, since it would require shifting of resources and the like, is in the spirit of American tolerance. And in principle, it would actually demonstrate a multifaceted dimension of America. The “terrorists” would be confused; on the one hand, there’s a prayer center for Muslims at Ground Zero, so maybe that means they won; but wait, it’s a pluralistic community center and it has a culinary school, basketball courts and a pool, so they lost? It’d be as confusing as a Christian burning a bible or a Buddhist burning sutras

The other thing that strikes me as especially disturbing is how the New York community seems to have gotten some poison in its veins in relation to Muslims after 9/11. Before, there were Muslims in the World Trade Center in a somewhat makeshift prayer room on the 17th floor of the south tower. While admittedly they were a minority, they were not viewed as anything of a threat to American liberties or even the idea that Islam had been assimilated, since their culture of prayer and the like had been preserved even in a decidedly religiously diverse America where temples, gurdwaras, mosques, synagogues and churches all coexist within the same country, potentially in the same city as well. Heck, I can’t imagine how I would react meeting a Muslim in the elevator, since honestly, I’ve still been pretty sheltered in relation to Islam, no thanks to living in the Bible Belt where everything besides Christianity is a pretty observable minority. It’s not as if there aren’t practicing Buddhists, etc, but they’re just not represented on the same level, mostly because religion functions like a business in Tennessee half the time, with angry council meetings and such ruining the community and fellowship from what I’ve heard from my parents. But I certainly hope this story on the New York Times’ website is spread around some more.

On a lighter note, but still somewhat seriously warped in reality, a magazine ad from an Italian ice cream company features a pregnant nun, using the religious image to make a clever pun on words, saying that the ice cream was “immaculately conceived”. Of course this isn’t anything in relation to the actual Catholic doctrine, even though I couldn’t explain it to you for beans, but Catholics in the UK seem pretty distressed, enough to pressure the publishers to remove the ad from the magazines released. I can understand why Catholics would be steamed about yet another misrepresentation of their religion; not unlike me potentially being relegated as a Zen Buddhist to Japanese animation representations, which are potential misunderstandings waiting to happen. But on the other hand, I don’t get so offended and take my beliefs so seriously that I prevent other people from advertising and being entrepreneurial. It’s not only un-American, it’s just impractical. You’re basically hijacking even economics and the arts and tearing them apart because you’re personally offended. We don’t need to look more like the Middle East than we could potentially appear to be already in some regards with special interest groups being able to push away virtually anything if they throw enough votes or money at it. Let’s try being less like the UK in this situation. What harm does a pregnant nun do to Catholicism as long as she was chaste, hm? Until next time, Namaste and Aloha.

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